How a Philadelphia lawyer turned a historic bank into a shrine to democracy (and his legal career)

June 3, 2018

By Staff

If a corner building on a narrow urban site wants to assert itself, it had better stand up straight and speak in a forceful voice. Architect Horace Trumbauer’s columned neoclassical temple at 12th and Chestnut did just that in the early 20th century for Beneficial Bank, which catered to Philadelphia’s immigrant workers. And now it’s teaching the same lesson to Drexel University’s aspiring trial lawyers.

After sitting empty for a dozen years, the handsome, white granite building has been brought back to life by Drexel’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law, which will use the building to teach courtroom skills. To give students the experience of practicing before a judge and jury, the architects at Tackett & Co. fitted out the former bank with five authentic courtrooms where professors can stage mock trials. Because the spaces can do double duty as regular classrooms, the building, known as the Kline Institute of Trial Advocacy, also serves as a lavish Center City campus for the law school.

JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer. Horace Trumbauer’s neoclassical bank dominates the corner of 12th and Chestnut. It’s now the Kline Institute of Trial Advocacy.

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